The Koshino Shukura train aims to transport passengers — less to a destination than to a state of giddy intoxication.

It’s one of Japan’s 44 “Joyful Trains” — on-rail experiences themed around a regional specialty. This particular journey is all about nihonshu (sake). It ambles through Niigata Prefecture, Japan’s largest producer of rice and home to the nation’s most exquisite rice wine. Giddy heights are reached, not only by the free-flowing tipple but by the ways this journey captures a magnificent, oft-overlooked side of Japan.

The Koshino Shukura route travels the three biomes that make Niigata nihonshu unique: the coastline that receives wintry blasts from Siberia; the mountains that force this moisture high into the clouds; and the inland plains where it falls each long winter as blankets of snow.